Former Amazon worker opens new independent book shop in Houghton, beginning new chapter for empty store

A once-empty unit on a local high street has entered a new chapter as one of the area’s only independent book shops.

Featherbed Books has opened in Newbottle Street, Houghton, in the former Westway Vets unit and it’s already proving a hit with shoppers.

Owner Nicole Brennan formerly worked at Amazon, but decided to pursue her passion for books with a career change.

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"I’d bought a book about local, independent bookshops and realised there wasn’t any in the area,” explained Nicole. “An independent bookshop has just opened in Durham, but apart from that, the nearest were all around half an hour away.

Featherbed Books has opened in Newbottle Street, Houghton

"Amazon was a good job, but I wanted to do more, and I wanted to do something more community based.”

Nicole is from Seaham and has named her bookstore after her home town’s Featherbed Rocks.

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As well as celebrating the work of local authors, such as award-winning Jessica Andrews from Houghton, Glenda Young from Ryhope and Nancy Revell’s Sunday Times best-selling Shipyard Girls series, about Sunderland’s very own shipyard girls, the shop sells a broad range of fiction and non-fiction books for adults and children.

Nicole has sought to provide her customers with books they may not find on the shelves of bigger chains.

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Nicole Brennan has opened Featherbed Books on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.

"We have a manga section which, unless you’re really clued up on manga, it can be difficult to know where to start,” she said. “Our fantasy / sci-fi section is also proving popular as it’s a genre that can often be neglected in bookshops.”

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Featherbed Books has only been open for a month, but it’s already generating interest.

"The response has been really positive and people say they’re happy not to see another barbers or takeaway opening up,” said Nicole. “People really enjoy coming in to bookshops and you don’t have to buy something, people are welcome to just come in and enjoy the place.

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"Some people still don’t know we’re here as we’re a little out of the way (up past the Gentoo office), but we chose this unit as there’s space to expand should we need to.”

Independent bookstore Featherbed Books has opend on up on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
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With the rise of online retail, Nicole says it’s important to support local, independents who can offer a level of service you just don’t get online.

"With something like Amazon they can do most things, but the one thing they can’t do yet is the community aspect, that in-person communication,” she said.

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“A lot of local high streets suffered because of the pandemic, but there’s lots of things happening in Newbottle Street. People are clearly putting the effort in, so it’s important people support that.”

Independent bookstore Featherbed Books has opend on up on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
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Nicole Brennan has opened Featherbed Books on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
Independent bookstore Featherbed Books has opend on up on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
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Independent bookstore Featherbed Books has opend on up on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
Independent bookstore Featherbed Books has opend on up on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
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Independent bookstore Featherbed Books has opend on up on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
Independent bookstore Featherbed Books has opend on up on Newbottle Street, Houghton-le-Spring.